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Down hat vs wool hat... wool seems to be the better choice?
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Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Down hat vs wool hat... wool seems to be the better choice? on 01/27/2014 13:02:36 MST Print View

I bought a down hat which I have for the most part loved. However, I've noticed that it's lost a good percentage of its initial loft.

I think this could be due to:

- my tendency to shove it in my pocket (and compress the down) when I get hot

- the fact that the baffles are a bit smaller and It think contribute to compressing the down

- gets wet and dries faster which might also be damaging the down.

I was thinking that a least for a hat, wool makes more sense.

- if it rains, wool will still keep you warm. And it tends to rain on your head first!

- when you're wearing it while you sleep, it's not going to compress as much underneath you. Which means more heat.

Of course, it's slightly more weight. And slightly more volume. But it's just for your head so it's not the end of the world.


Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
puffy layer on 01/27/2014 13:28:42 MST Print View

Would you hike in a puffy layer?

Same concept.

Sweat, salts and other moisture compromises the loft.

A down hat is good for stationary activities and sleeping IMO.

Again, just like a puffy layer.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Wool on 01/27/2014 14:05:19 MST Print View

I prefer wool for hats. Contrary to just about every other place in my kit, I tend not to overthink hats. Whatever the girlfriend crochets or whatever I thrift will do in this category.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Down hat vs wool hat... wool seems to be the better choice? on 01/27/2014 14:12:15 MST Print View

I prefer fleece hat. Keeps it's loft if damp. Stretchy around head so it stays in place.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Down hat vs wool hat... wool seems to be the better choice? on 01/27/2014 14:15:54 MST Print View

Down beanies have always struck me as really, really silly.

Patrick Baker
(f1prb22) - M
Two hats on 01/27/2014 15:17:33 MST Print View

You could use two hats, one for hiking and one for camp, as indicated here:

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Down hat vs wool hat... wool seems to be the better choice? on 01/27/2014 15:51:33 MST Print View

Fleece works pretty good for a winter hat.

An Army issue balaclava or helmet liner can also be very useful, since the flaps come down.

A down beanie will work, but it gets compressed too easily.


hwc 1954
(wcollings) - M
Power Stretch fleece for me on 01/27/2014 16:29:26 MST Print View

I usually wear a PowerStretch fleece beanie or balaclava in the winter. I have several. They get sweaty, I rotate them, and wash 'em. Easy. Comfortable.

However, down is very easy to care for. Easy to wash and you can restore the loft by tossing in a low-heat dryer with three tennis balls bouncing around. I would do the dryer trick to any down hat or gloves or jacket that had gotten damp hiking...or that just needed to be fluffed up.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Down hat vs wool hat... wool seems to be the better choice? on 01/27/2014 18:17:30 MST Print View

Down is good for sitting around or sleeping with a quilt. Wool is good, I like a fleece cap best.

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
agree with Nick on 01/28/2014 11:40:02 MST Print View

My favorite beanie is Possumdown, made from NZ merino wool and NZ possum fur (light, warm, can literally shake out water if it gets wet and put it right back on). I have used a down beanie from Black Rock in camp or while sleeping.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Down hat vs wool hat... wool seems to be the better choice? on 01/28/2014 12:29:18 MST Print View

Hats take a beating, scrunched up in a pocket or pack and rarely threaded with the care of an expensive down jacket or bag. I have this pet therory about thin down garments loosing a higher proportion of loft: If a thick puffy loses 1/4" loft, you would hardly notice, but if you only have 1/2" to start with, that's a 50% drop. The assumption is that those outer tufts of down are taking the beating and with a thin garment, it's ALL outer layers.

Fleece is cheap and light, it wicks and dries well and it feels good. Wool is more durable. There are all kinds of wool/fleece hybrid beanies.

It really comes to how much loft you really need. I find that I usually need a little insulation on my head and will just be a sweaty mess if I overdo it. I have a light patagonia R.5 beanie and an Ibex wool beanie that are my first choices. The hood on my wind or rain shell is taking the brunt of the weather and the beanie under that just needs to keep a warm layer of air next to my skin

A light balaclava may be a better bet in cold weather as it is my face, chin, neck and ears that are feeling the cold. Likewise, a simple fleece headband will keep my ears warm without overheating my whole head.

A down beanie might be better in camp, with the same pros and cons as down vs synthetic jackets and sleeping bags. At that level of cold I would be wearing an insulated jacket with a hood anyway, with the option of a fleece or wool beanie under.

I use a bag with a hood, so it's the same scenario for sleep as with a hooded jacket. I would want a warm hat with a hoodless quilt for cold weather, but if it is that cold, a balaclava would be my choice--- I have a thick head of hair and my face, chin and neck feel the cold more.

My real go to cold weather hat is a Peruvian style beanie with the long ear flaps in a Windstopper fleece. OR makes good ones. I'm using a North Face version now because I found one that fits my XL noggin better. If the Windstopper fleece and a hood won't cut it, I need a cabin with a fire!

Carhartt has a few models worth looking at. They have a few that are cut like the Peruvian caps, sans a chin strap. They are long in back and give excellent coverage down to your neck. They also make a helmet liner face shield that most of us would call a balaclava, but the chin portion is easy to pull down out of the way. The prices tend to be better than hiking clothing.

Edited by dwambaugh on 01/28/2014 12:40:09 MST.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Down hat vs wool hat... wool seems to be the better choice? on 01/28/2014 13:11:48 MST Print View

The good news is you can most likely restore the down beanie by washing and drying it correctly. I love my black rock hat, and I gave two of them this year as Christmas presents, but there really is a very narrow (one might argue negligible) range of conditions when it would be a hat you should do anything but sleep and lounge in on a backpacking trip. Still for the weight....

Edited by millonas on 01/28/2014 13:16:10 MST.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Poofay on 01/28/2014 14:01:29 MST Print View

If the down is one of those with high powered non DWR fill ... Theres a good chance it is losing its loft from humidity

The old 500-600 fill caps tend to not lose loft so much as its more resistant to normal humidity

For items in humid environments which you take out of thr pack regularly, the benefits of high fill power non DWR down are pretty questionable

My favourite is whatever synthetic one looks thick and fuzzy thats cheap ... Hats tend to get damp, fast drying is good

Ive been trying to convince my AZN relatives to bring me back one of those fur lined commie ones with the big red star


Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
My hat system FWIW on 01/28/2014 14:19:55 MST Print View

In three season hiking conditions, I rock a polypro balaclava only. It is so versatile. I can roll it up as a hat, use it as neck gaiter, ear muffs or "ninja ski mask mode" for fuller face protection. I pack it in all four seasons.


For three season plus (and spring skiing when the conditions can be wet and sloppy), I have my light weight fleece beanie that I paid $4 CDN at the MEC in Jasper. It is actually one of my two favorite hats. :) I wear it to bed or on esp cold mornings. I'll wear in conjunction with the balaclava above at times.


In winter? I often will use the wool beanie because of the "warm when damp" properties in the snow. It is often worn with the polypro balaclava balaclava in certain conditions. The wool beanie is almost always worn, so I do not mind the extra weight/bulk vs a fleece beanie

For REALLY cold days and windy days (and often at night when winter backpacking), I have an old, worn but effective wool/acrylic balaclava that was a stocking stuffer one year.


Edited by PaulMags on 01/28/2014 14:23:39 MST.

William S.

Locale: East Coast
Fleece beanie on 01/28/2014 17:37:51 MST Print View

I have an UnderArmour fleece beanie. Use it for cold-weather running too. Reasonably warm, and you can wash/rinse the sweat out.

Ben Hons
(BenjiH) - M
Hat on 01/28/2014 19:46:17 MST Print View


Do you know the brand of the balaclava you have pictured?

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Ecoragg on 01/28/2014 19:56:12 MST Print View

This one iirc

Ben Hons
(BenjiH) - M
Re: Ecoragg on 01/30/2014 13:25:17 MST Print View

I meant the first one, where you mention rolling it up into a hat. Thanks!

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
light balaclava on 01/30/2014 19:04:20 MST Print View

I bought it 13 yrs ago at Sierra Trading Post. The name is long forgotten, sorry. :)

Though, now that I think about it, STP has sold Kenyon thermal products for a loooong time. Probably similar to this one:

Looks like it too (except mine is green).

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: light balaclava on 01/31/2014 08:16:43 MST Print View

The description on the website:

"Kenyon’s Balaclava has state of the art moisture management which wicks perspiration to the outer layer of the fabric to keep you dry and comfortable in any climate or condition. ... "

Don't you wish some companies would just have written: "It's a freakin' balaclava" and left it at that.